The BBC’s new 90-minute adaptation of nostalgic novel Cider with Rosie is transporting us back to simpler time. Laurie Lee’s much-loved memoir tells the story of his chocolate box childhood, spent in the Gloucestershire village of Slad in the 1920s. TV Times spent the day on set with Samantha Morton, director Philippa Lowthorpe, and one of the young stars, Archie Cox…
Who do you play, Samantha?
Samantha: “I play Annie, a strong and affectionate matriarch who raises her children alone while her husband is away.”
And what’s she like?
Samantha: “She’s a wonderful woman who works incredibly hard and loves her children. Her relationship with Laurie is one of absolute love, but she also gives him a huge amount of space to grow, she isn’t too clingy. I think she’s pretty amazing and I’ve always admired her. Now I identify with her as a mother.”
With her husband so conspicuously absent, what makes her stay and wait for him even though it’s a challenge?
Samantha: “She believes he’s coming back and she hangs onto the moments of love they had at the beginning of their relationship, she lives through them. Life is tough for her – they live at the bottom of Slad Valley, which is incredibly beautiful and bountiful, but back in those days, things weren’t easy due to poverty and flooding.”
The setting is so beautiful, is it a joy to be filming with such idyllic scenery around?
Samantha: “It’s amazing to be here as it’s where everything took place and that’s incredibly important – it seems insane not to film here if you can. But it hasn’t been easy, there have been lots of difficulties, such as access to the cottage where we’re filming and the weather! I’m breastfeeding my six-month-old baby at the moment, and we couldn’t get a trailer near the set, so I was in a little hut at the bottom of the garden. It’s beautiful but it’s also some of the toughest filming conditions I’ve ever encountered. I didn’t have to get a helicopter to work or anything like that, but it was tricky terrain at the cottage!”
Even though the shoot was a bit of a challenge, was it worth it to play the part of Annie?
Samantha: “Cider with Rosie is definitely my favourite book. I first read it as a teenager and I’ve always been a huge fan. It’s so nostalgic – it’s almost like reading someone’s diary!”
How much research did you do for the role?
Samantha: “The book talks about a time that has gone forever, and it’s been captured so beautifully and perfectly, that you don’t want the book to end. You want to be Laurie’s friend, you want to be Annie or Rosie, a part of that world. It’s a very special book and it’s hard for writers to encapsulate moments in time as Laurie did. It’s rare and special, and that’s why I think people love the book so much. I didn’t need to do any further research for the drama – the book was my bible.”
The young acting talent playing Laurie weren’t stage school students, were they?
Samantha: “Casting agents went into local Gloucestershire schools to find them, and eventually they chose 15 year-old Archie Cox and 10 year-old Georgie smith to share the role of Laurie.”
Philippa, why did you choose to work with children without an acting background, is that not a bit risky?
Philippa: “I prefer working with non-professional children and I like the fact that these kids do not have any ambition to be actors. We really wanted to capture authentic accents and the sense of innocence you get in the countryside, and these children felt so right for the parts. They have a wonderful stillness on screen and they make it look so easy and natural, which is rare.”
You may not have wanted to be an actor before this Archie, but do you think now you’ve had a go you might like to do more in the future?
Archie: “This is out of the blue. I didn’t really think about acting before and I don’t even do drama at school. Up to the last audition I thought it was for an extra. Then we got there and there were only three people left, so I thought it might be for a bigger role. I would definitely like to do more acting after this.”
Cider with Rosie can be seen on Sunday September 27 at 8.30pm on BBC1.